SINCE APPLE announced its hairdryer-like AirPods with the last iPhone, manufacturers have been slowly jumping on what is becoming known as "true wireless" or "truly wireless" headsets.
The premise is simple - no cable. At all. Just two earpieces. They're synced to each other, and the device itself.
Jokes about them falling down the toilet aside, we've been living with them for a few weeks now. We've not lost any. We've not dropped any. And yes, for the most part, they do work. But which is best? Here's five to try.
Best for size: Rowkin Bit Charge Stereo Earbuds
If you weren't looking closely, you could mistake the Rowkin Bit Charge earbuds for ear plugs. Discreet is not the word. When they aren't in use, the grab magnetically into a metal tube which can then charge them, as well as your phone, thanks to the USB-A slot in the back. Then you just charge the whole unit.
Comfort-wise, they're brilliant, and they fit securely in your ear, with an optional ear-hook if you're worried, but we didn't feel concerned at all.
Most importantly the sound quality is superb, and after a few little niggles, they paired, and they stayed paired. There's even a mic to take calls.
Best value: Syllable D900 Mini
Bigger, but not ridiculous, are these Syllable buds. Same set up really, excellent sound, but both the buds and the box are bulkier than the others in this test. The sound quality wasn't the best, but it was still above average for wired earbuds at this price.
No phone charger this time, but the buds will charge up to five times in the box, and each charge lasts about two hours. There's also a myriad of earhooks to make them more comfortable.
Paired. Stayed paired. Sounded good. Stupidly cheap. Worth a look if you're not sure if this whole wireless thing is for you.
Best for sports: Jabra Elite Sport
Recently upgraded to improve battery life, the Jabra Elite Sport buds offer a bit more than the others. It's a question of whether you want it. First off, there are 4.5 hours between charges. There's a little case which gives another two charges (nothing to do your phone though). But what you also get is the full Jabra Service with heart rate monitor, in-ear coaching during runs and workouts, and yes, goddam it, some kick-ass sound quality. You can take calls too.
Pairing is the easiest yet as the Jabra app takes the hard part out of it. However, it does have a habit of wanting to control your other Bluetooth devices too, so be careful.
There's a "hear through" feature which opens up more ambient sound, perfect if you're running near traffic and need to have your wits about you. And if you're not convinced by the promises of being sweat proof offered by the others, then Jabra will give you the peace of mind of 3 years "sweat guarantee".
All this costs extra though, but if you're serious about sport, you'll be wanting to give these serious thought.
Best left: Kitsound True Wireless Earbuds
Kitsound was one of the first brands to embrace the new "true wireless", idea, and frankly, it shows. We usually love Kitsound products, but sadly, these aren't even the cheapest on show and are significantly behind the others.
The sound quality is OK, but they're big ugly devices in red and black that just scream "skint early adopter". There's no extra charging option, just a bag to keep them in, and then each one is attached with a separate microUSB connection to charge.
The battery life claim is four hours, but they were so cumbersome we didn't bother finding out.
Best overall: Sol Republic Amps Air
From the exquisite pebble case in brushed metal, to the megablast of the full frequency grab-you-in-the-nuts sound, there was only ever going to be one winner.
Shaped to fit your ear, rather than stick out of it, these rainproof, sweatproof and almost physics defying headphones don't want to leave your ears, they want to make them better, and because they are a light silicon, they do so beautifully.
The case hides a USB charger for your phone (but we do mean hidden, the pebble is smooth) that can also recharge the phone. It'll also recharge your buds 15 times.
In short, they win at everything. We'd pay the price of the Jabras for them and if they were the size of the Rowkins (which come in a close, close second) then we'd be in musical paradise.
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